Tue 20 Sep 2011

DeadDrops uses USB sticks cemented into places where they’re accessible by all: a rockface, walls, the sides of buildings. Everyone is invited to drop or find files.

DeadDrops brings up questions about how we share and store data, the physical infrastructure of the internet and how this affects our privacy. We are often led to believe the internet is an ether that streams through our living rooms enlightening and connecting everyone. It is easy to forget that in reality it is a physical thing as it is so hard to see it.

(A good example of the ‘physical internet’ is the story of how, in April this year, a 75 year old woman in Georgia cut a cable supplying Armenia’s internet while out digging for scrap. The country was plunged into data darkness for a good six hours! Read more in James Bridle’s awesome blog).

DeadDrops is not a call to arms for vigilante data centres or some sort of covert distribution of classified documents or malware. Its aims are more to encourage us to think of how things might work differently, and to consider where our data is and who is controlling it.

We are normally encouraged to use ‘the cloud’ (a marketing term or abstraction to hide the complexity of the internet) and not worry about who or what is making the internet happen. This is much like the way we no longer consider who cleans our water. But is this the only way to do it? Would it be better to be more aware of where our data comes from? We have fair trade coffee and clothing, so why not fair trade networks? Filesharing in public space through USB sticks placed in walls, between buildings and in rocks is really a provocation on what the alternative could be.

If you’d like to learn more about DeadDrops and Aram Bartholl, try this interview published by Rhizome.

To get involved, come along to one of Abandon Normal Devices’ DropDays, aimed at bringing together filesharers to help seed the system. These take place across the Northwest of England including Liverpool, Manchester, Burnley and Barrow. Go to or get in touch with me (@cheapjack on Twitter) for more info.

Alternatively, you can go viral and create your own offline network. A how-to guide can be found here. Long live the DeadDrop!

Recent Journals

Other Journals